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The Master

  R HD Closed Captioning

Paul Thomas Anderson

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Plot Summary

Haunted by his past, WW-II veteran and drifter Freddie Quell crosses paths with a mysterious movement called The Cause, led by Lancaster Dodd, aka The Master, and his wife Peggy. Their twisted relationship is the core of this film which THE NEW YORK TIMES called “a glorious and haunting symphony of color, emotion and sound with camera movements that elicit an involuntary gasp and feats of acting that defy comprehension.”  Will Freddie be able to outrun his past? Will The Cause help or hurt him? Can this tortured, violent creature be civilized? Or is man, after all, just a dirty animal? Starring 2012 ACADEMY-AWARD® NOMINEES for Best Actor, Joaquin Phoenix, Best Supporting Actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Best Supporting Actress, Amy Adams, ROLLING STONE calls THE MASTER “A mind bending cinematic landmark.”

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews

TOMATOMETER

85%
  • Reviews Counted: 224
  • Fresh: 191
  • Rotten: 33
  • Average Rating: 8.1/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: In the end it may not have the emotional uplift the Academy or a popular mainstream audience craves, but make no mistake, this is an enthralling drama about a peculiarly American restlessness, and the striving for insight and grace. – Tom Charity, CNN.com, Jan 8, 2013

Rotten: It's a mess; it's pretentious; it is thundery with dismay. – David Thomson, The New Republic, Jun 14, 2013

Fresh: [A] challenging, psychologically fraught drama. – J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader, Jan 8, 2013

Fresh: The Master may go down as one of Paul Thomas Anderson's most compelling works for two simple reasons: Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. – Cary Darling, Dallas Morning News, Sep 22, 2012

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

A CHALLENGING FILM FOR SERIOUS AUDIENCES

Let me just start by saying that "The Master" is NOT for everyone. This is a movie specifically designed to intensely challenge and shock its viewers in the most harrowing and uncomfortable ways you can imagine. There are several scenes that may simply leave you scratching your head in utter confusion and make you wonder why that entire sequence was added to begin with. But honestly, that's exactly what makes this flick so fascinating to watch. It never takes the time to explain itself, nor does it even try to, and yet, the movie solidly commands your attention in all its enigmatic glory. The characters Paul Thomas Anderson has created here are nothing short of complex, if not disturbing. Freddie Quell (played with brilliant force by the underrated Joaquin Phoenix) is a World War II veteran whose experiences overseas have left him a completely manic and unstable shadow of his former self - a drifter controlled by his unrestrained temper and heavy drinking obsession. Just when it finally seems as though he's reached his nadir, Freddie inadvertently finds himself aboard a ship carrying Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the creepily charismatic leader of "The Cause", a mysterious religious movement with unclear motives. Over the course of the film, Dodd manages to persuade Freddie to join the cult and takes him under his wing - much to the distaste of Dodd's overbearing and fanatical wife (Amy Adams). Because "The Master" focuses almost all of its attention on character development rather than cohesive storytelling, the film has a sense of erratic claustrophobia to it that makes it all the more difficult to sit through. Phoenix pretty much drives the movie with his surreal portrayal of an insane man on the brink of self-destruction. The way his character unintelligibly mumbles, the way he irrationally and unconsciously acts without thinking makes it all the more terrifyingly believable. As for Hoffman's performance, one could argue that it's even more impressive than Phoenix's. His unnerving depiction of a manipulative cult leader has a persona that ranges from seemingly charming to downright monstrous. Adams' psychotic character is also a scene-stealer, but she hardly gets any screen time compared to her male co-stars, which is a shame. Above all, "The Master" is a powerful commentary on both society and the individual - the need for acceptance, belonging, a figure to look up to: particularly in the time shortly after war, where so many young men returned to a nation that didn't know what to do with them all - all focused through the bare-bone emotion of Phoenix's character. But due to its unflinching rawness, this film becomes too overbearing at times, making it feel largely unattainable for a wider audience. There are a lot of scenes that may easily shock you both mentally and physically (at one point in the flick, the main character experiences a disturbing fever dream in which he imagines all the women in the room he's in are completely nude). This movie is definitely not for the most sensitive viewers, and it'll probably leave you with more questions than answers, but if you appreciate filmmaking at its most creatively daring and audaciously polarizing, I still recommend giving it a chance. Even if you aren't the biggest fan of Paul Thomas Anderson's work, "The Master" is well worth seeing at least once for its magnificent performances, expert cinematography, and challenging - albeit confounding - screenplay.

Disappointing Film

I'm a huge PT Anderson fan. I was lucky enough to see a 70mm film print of this film, knew quite a bit about the subject matter, and was quite excited to see it. But I left the theater disappointed. In the few times Anderson has failed during his career its usually because his script is heavy on dialog and contains an unfocused narrative. This is no exception and it has to be ranked amongst his worst outings as a filmmaker.

Smells of Scientology

This film was fascinating. I played 'spot the scientologist' throughout. Was amazed that PTA was able to get this to the big screen. I kept imagining Tom Cruise's face and how angry he must have been; particularly during a scene where Lancaster Dodd’s(based on L. Ron Hubbard) eldest son Val tells Freddy Quell that his father is “just making it up as he goes along.” Apparently Tom Cruise was furious about this line, wanted to sue PTA for defamation of his beloved ELRon but couldn't because the scene is based on truth. In real life, ELRon's first son, L. Ron Hubbard Jr., after helping him establish his church, went on to denounce his father as a “fraud.” Anyways...I think the film becomes much more fascinating/interesting to watch if you go into it knowing that it's based on Scientology. PTA is definitely poking fun at the cult in his own backwards sort of way. If you don't know that The Master is about Scientology, I can see this being a confusing film. But once you know, it becomes super intriguing. The cinematography and acting are obviously brilliant as everyone else has already said. However, for me, knowing it was about Scientology was the glue that pulled it all together. Had to watch it twice. This article discusses many of the similarities:

The Master
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  • $7.99
  • Genre: Drama
  • Released: 2012

Customer Ratings